Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 08/02/2011

Paper airplanes a-flying…

2 agosto 2011- martes

Wearing Mayan traje

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would help a group of rural Guatemalan women make and fly paper airplanes!

Now to give some context to that activity…Maria, the coordinator of the Municipal Women’s Office, and I have begun working with a group of women in the village of Paxboch (pronounced Pashbotch). This group will be receiving pigs to raise as part of an economic development project from the city. So we are doing a set of 5 workshops with them on marketing and business skills, which are from a past Peace Corps program called Empresariales Juveniles (junior businessmen). Although these materials were developed for youth, they are actually great for adults. So far the women have learned vocabulary definitely outside of their usual life, e.g., materias primas (raw materials) and more.

Individual efforts...figuring out how to make paper airplanes

As usual before giving a workshop, I run around assembling the materials needed: attendance list, inkpad (many women can’t sign their names, so they sign with their thumbprint), posters, candies, earring-making supplies, and of course, my camera. Guatemalans LOVE to take photos of everything! Meetings, events, etc….I’m still puzzling out why we need so many photos of meetings, but oh well. Then comes the usual challenge of how to arrive to the village, so despite my writing up a “solicitud” (request for transportation ) and getting it approved by a city councilman, it turns out that the muni driver is off on an errand….so it’s a no go from the muni. Maria and I then cross the street where pickup trucks are parked in front of the iglesia and pay 35 quetzales ($4.20) for the driver to take us to Paxboch…a 20 minute ride bumping along on a steep dirt road.

Successful production line work!

Most events do not start on time in Guatemala… “la hora chapina” or “Guatemalan time” is the joke, however, this women’s group has been very punctual, so I felt badly about arriving an hour late, but they understood. The theme of the day was production…yes, we’re getting to the paper airplanes. First, we reviewed the story of Aminta, a woman in Africa who launched into her own business without much research or knowledge, and ended up losing money….I help them to learn from her example. Next, everyone who brought their candies from the last session is given another candy; this is an exercise in teaching how to save. By delaying immediate gratification and not eating their candies, they will receive another candy each time they bring all of the previous ones to that day’s session…not such an easy task with hungry children drooling for the treats. I am pleased that most have brought their candies.

Low production group...note the sad faces!

Onto production, the goal is to demonstrate “producción unitaria” vs “producción en serie”, so unitary vs group production. A group of 6 women is instructed to make paper airplanes as best they can…no instructions, and that they have 5 minutes. Each must take her airplane to the quality control person who will test if it flies and give it back for revision if it fails. Ready, set, go! This group makes 10 airplanes in 5min, but 1 doesn’t fly…so 9 total. Next group demonstrates factory line production, so each of the 6 has her own fold to execute, then pass it along the assembly line…this group makes 20 airplanes in 5 minutes! And all of them can fly…so we discuss when is assembly line production the best method (for complicated products with many parts) because each person can be an expert in their one task.

Haciendo aretes- making earrings

No, these women won’t be selling paper airplanes, but we’re talking about selling woven fabrics, homemade soaps, earrings, etc., so it gets them thinking about the best production method. We finish up with earring and necklace-making…this was already a favorite activity from the last session, and they intently seek out their preferred beads and colors. A little boy of 7yrs proudly displays the necklace that his mother made for him; it’s so refreshing to witness this mother’s departure from the usual gender expectations.

A proud creator

Dark clouds have been gathering as we work outside under a tarp…and after I confirm that there will be no ride back to the center of town, Maria and I pack up quickly and walk briskly back along the dirt road. It felt rude to pass up the offered hot drink or atol, but the weather definitely threatened to let loose. Thankfully, we arrived still dry an hour later. So there you have it, a peek into my work with rural communities in Guatemala….


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